Kangaroo Island is one of South Australia’s most celebrated places for its sweeping landscapes and exceptional produce, but has more recently seen the quiet rise of a diverse wine region and spirit scene.
This petite yet verdant island is building a lasting name for top-quality wines and renowned for being a haven of gourmet indulgence. Stop by cellar doors, pick up produce at farmgate stalls or unpack picnic lunches on the beach. When roaming the island’s boutique selection of cellar doors, expect to taste varieties such as cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot and experimental red blends.
Beside a lavish display of seafood, cheese and other artisan produce, Kangaroo Island is home to must-visit natural attractions. Even distillers are chasing this maritime expanse, producing quality gins and whiskeys. Pair this with breathtaking coastal views and national parks, and it’s no wonder Kangaroo Island has become a go-to destination for wine lovers and foodies. Accessible by plane or ferry, visitors can expect to arrive on the isle within a two-hour boat ride or take a 30-minute flight from Adelaide.
James Halliday on Kangaroo Island
The synergy between wine and tourism is well known, but Kangaroo Island has the potential to develop it to an unprecedented degree. This third-largest island off the coast of Australia (nine times larger than Singapore Island, 60 times larger than Hong Kong Island) offers an extraordinary range of attractions for the tourist, the best known being its native flora and fauna, unpolluted beaches and coastal scenery. It is also rapidly gaining a reputation for high-quality food products (witness Kangaroo Island chicken, Ligurian bee honey, and of course all manner of seafood), with vineyards now making their contribution.
While the native habitat has been in existence for untold centuries, early attempts to settle on the island proved more difficult than might be imagined today. Likewise sporadic moves to establish vines in the early 1900s (by the Potts family of Bleasdale), then in 1951, next in 1955, and in the 1970s, all came to nothing. It was not until 1985 that Michael and Rosi Florance succeeded in establishing 1 hectare of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc vines, although birds proved a major problem, delaying the first vintage until 1990.
In conjunction with the Florances, Caj Amadio (of Chain of Ponds in the Adelaide Hills) established Kangaroo Island Trading Co., which buys grapes from a number of growers and sells the wine under the Kangaroo Island Vines brand name.
The highest profile development on the island is that of French Flying Winemaker Jacques Lurton, who has a 300 hectare property so far planted with 11 hectares of Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Shiraz, Grenache, Semillon and Viognier. The Islander Estate, as it is known, is the most important single wine venture on Kangaroo Island, with its own on-site winery and a 100 per cent estate-based focus.
The island’s slopes are gentle, with the north and north-east facing sites being preferred for viticulture. Obviously, there is no frost risk in the coastal areas that benefit from the maritime influence. A measure of protection from the prevailing south-easterly winds is the major consideration in site selection.
This is an unspoilt and largely undis- covered treasure island for tourists. Daily light plane access (a 25-minute flight from Adelaide airport) and increased sea crossings (for motor vehicles) will result in greater visitation, but hopefully not degrade the island’s freshness and beauty.
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Mid March to mid May